May 30, 2010

[Technicolor Musings] Glee: Gay-Friendly Network Television?

The role of the LGBT character on popular television has largely resided in stereotypes, as is the way of Hollywood whether we like it or not. Either they're very flamboyantly gay or they're just characters who are incidentally queer but never do anything about it. More recent examples of this phenomenon include the character of Special Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) from the now-defunct FlashForward and knife-wielding Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz) from the ever quirky SyFy series Caprica. I have nothing against the flamboyant or the stoic LGBT characters out there - one just can't help but wish for something a little more in-between and thus closer to reality.

But network TV in the US has always felt the pressure to be careful in how they handle things. Since they're on the air in a non-paid environment (as opposed to the likes of cable), all the more their choices are scrutinized by the public and of course the FCC at the same time. The last time a show with LGBT characters in the spotlight made waves was Will & Grace, which ran from 1998-2006. These days strong, note-worthy LGBT characters appear to be rather slim-pickings indeed, at least until Glee came along.

Glee: Kurt Hummel

Has Glee become our de facto queer network television show? And on FOX no less! Let's take a closer look.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen this week's episode of Glee, "Theatricality" (S01E20), then you might not want to read this discussion just yet unless you don't mind key plot points being discussed.

For those of you who have been fighting the good fight against Facebook's ever-changing privacy policies by becoming a hermit in the mountains, Glee is the hit FOX TV show that documents the struggles of William McKinley High School show choir group called New Directions. One of the original members of New Directions is one Kurt Hummel (Chris Cofler), who is as gay as they come. He has impeccable skin maintained by a horde of facial products. He dresses to the nines despite being in some random high school. And he sings like a Castratti on crack, and by that I mean really, really well.

At first I was worried that Kurt would fall into the trap of gay character stereotyping as is the way on television. But instead of a loud, obnoxious sex-obsessed queer we ended up with an internally confident yet soft-spoken young man who certainly has a gift for singing. Like the rest of the glee kids, he's a social outcast and has survived this long by remaining unnoticed and staying on the sidelines apart from the fact that his style of dress tends to make him stand out significantly. He's grown in confidence and pride over the course of this first season and has become highly popular amongst the LGBT segment whether this popularity is based on love for the character or absolute disdain.

As many of you many have read in the past, Kurt almost didn't exist as a character on the show. The role was especially created for Cofler after his audition for the role of Artie. But as the season as rolled along, one can't help but wonder if that's not the only thing that changed. In fact, more and more it seems like the series as a whole was significantly reshaped to benefit Kurt and he may be the real central character as opposed to Rachel Berry (Lea Michelle) or Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith). Sure, other characters seem to have more plot threads involving them but how many of them end up showing them in the best light? Unless Kurt has developed one of those mutant powers related to good luck and altering probability, he boy seems unable to do wrong in almost all his efforts.

Think about this for a moment. He joined the football team and despite the insanity that is getting them to dance "Single Ladies" on the field in the middle of game and NOT getting killed in the locker room after is a small miracle in itself. He eventually comes out to his father and it turns out he has The Best Dad on Television (as Vanity Fair calls him), who not only accepts his homosexuality but is highly supportive of his endeavors. He competes with Rachel for the rights to sing "Defying Gravity" and in the end he gets to take the high road and throw the competition in order for Rachel to get the song. And most recently he gets into a spat with Finn (who may potentially become his brother-in-law) despite his obvious manpulations to get them together and instead Finn gets banished. Oh, and don't forget bonus points for his dad's impassioned speech about why he loves his son at the same time. It Kurt a lucky bastard or what?

I'm not complaining about this - I'm just proving a point there. More and more Kurt is really taking the forefront here in terms of character development and despite his unhealthy love for the horribly straight Finn, he's still coming up roses. Plus he's getting something really big solo numbers - didn't you just gasp after watching his rendition of "Rosie's Turn" (from Gypsy)? Obviously Ryan Murphy is making sure her advances the pink agenda with this TV show and the symbol of his efforts truly is Kurt. Other characters like Rachel end up dealing with lost mothers who get lost again after a limited episode story arc whereas Kurt is forever Kurt and it's very, very rare when he doesn't have s good moment on-screen every week. He's practically perfect - even his moments of weakness and his frailties are prefect.

With the first season officially wrapping up in the weeks to come and news that Kurt will be getting a boyfriend(how best quality is that he isn't Finn) in the second season just tell us that everything may truly be coming up Kurt in Glee and this makes it a nice show to follow for the LGBT segment.

Well, as if a show all about a show choir singing pop songs, rock songs and show tunes wasn't gay enough, right?

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  1. so i learned something new today because of this ...

    i thought kurt was a kind of "flanderization" but when i evaluated it more -- he's not.

    the closest i found in is -- "Ensemble Darkhorse" -- like Spike of BtVS, Fraiser frm Cheers to his own series -- AND the most classic -- and closest -- example: ALEX KEATON of Family Ties.

    juz, me being random ...

  2. @Dek: TV Tropes for the win!